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Cholera cases are rapidly increasing in South Sudan’s capital, Juba, as the cost of clean water skyrockets amid a worsening economic crisis. 33 people have died in Juba alone including seven children under five, with 700 more people infected with the deadly and contagious disease.
Zlatko Gegic, Country Director for Oxfam in South Sudan, said: “Families are struggling as food prices and living expenses increase, with many taking desperate measures such as drinking dirty water to survive. The high cost and scarcity of clean water puts people at much greater risk of deadly yet preventable diseases like cholera.”
The country’s deteriorating economic situation has hiked the cost of fuel and driven up production and distribution expenses, making clean water more expensive and inaccessible for many.
Most of Juba’s residents rely on private sector suppliers such as water trucks and bicycle vendors, or town boreholes, while some collect water directly from the Nile. Although the government rightly caps the price of water, it remains out of reach for many.
“Families are telling us they now spend twice as much on water as they did just a few months ago. Those who can’t afford it have reduced their daily consumption to dangerous levels. Some have little choice but to rely on dirty water from the Nile for their survival, exposing them to serious risk of disease,” Gegic said.
Water companies in Juba are producing and distributing less due to high fuel costs. Bottled water vendors are also selling less, meaning water supply is severely affected. The government’s official declaration of the outbreak coupled with its cooperation with NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance has helped contain the spread of the disease. But more needs to be done to save lives.
“We need to act now. We appeal to South Sudan’s leaders to prioritize investment in water and health infrastructure to prevent future outbreaks. The provision of public services should top the budgetary agenda. Donors should urgently fund life-saving activities such as chlorination for water trucks and rehabilitation of water systems,” Gegic said.
South Sudan’s economic crisis is a direct result of the war. Increased military spending by government has meant little is left for essential services, including life-saving measures such as the provision water-treating chlorine.
“Oxfam strongly appeals to South Sudanese leaders to end the war and focus on delivery of essential services. Without peace, the economy will continue to deteriorate and clean water will remain out of reach for many,” Gegic said.
Notes to editors
Throughout Juba, Oxfam is rehabilitating boreholes, supporting chlorination of water delivered by water trucks and increasing water treatment infrastructure for bicycle vendors. Oxfam is also promoting good hygiene practises such as hand washing and cleaning of water storage facilities, particularly in Protection of Civilian sites within a UN base.
In addition to cholera cases reported in Juba county, there have been 59 cases including 1 death in Bor and its vicinity, Jonglei State. Numbers correct as of 8 July 2015.
For more information, please read Oxfam's media brief 'A City Exposed - Clean Water Runs Dry in Juba, South Sudan' (July 2015)